Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Japan and the energy question

The earthquake in Japan and its triggered tsunami caused many casualties and a nuclear incident at the Fukushima plant. As the world deeply mourns for this tragedy, the debate is back on whether nuclear energy should be included in the energy mix of the future. Because there are both pros and cons about nuclear technology, this is a difficult to answer question.

This statement actually goes for all electricity generation technologies; there is no champion which is better than the others. Fossil fuel electricity generation causes climate change, nuclear power generation produces dangerous nuclear waste and finally electricity generation from renewable energy sources makes up for only a slight percentage of today’s energy mix. Renewables still need a lot of investment to gain economies of scale.

The incident in Japan makes us think about how the future of energy will look like. While Hidehiko Hishiyama’s, a director general at the trade ministry, states that renewable energy alone isn’t sufficient and that nuclear power is essential, one needs to take into account another important trend in the energy and utilities sector. This is the development of smart grids and smart meters. Smart meters make measurement possible. And that which can be measured, can be managed. Consequently, companies which have implemented an energy management system can save money and resources by reducing their carbon footprint.

If energy efficiency and smart grids will be part of everyday use in the future, (intermittent) renewable energy sources are a better fit to the energy demands than (bulky) nuclear power. However, if safety can be guaranteed with regard to nuclear power generation, also this can be considered as an interesting alternative. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Megatrends already at play: Evidence from the Middle East

During the last couple of months of last year- 2010 - we evaluated the key megatrends that will have a significant impact on future societies and businesses. What we are seeing at the moment across the Middle East appears to be a reflection of many of these ‘trends’.

Over the past month and a half, we have seen revolts in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya; young students and professionals demonstrating, in some cases with arms, against what they perceive as an oppressive regime. The increased connectivity of the region coupled with an educated youth faced with unemployment rates of close to 30% has been driving force behind the demonstrations and echoes the ‘trends’ we discussed in our previous blogs.

The unrest in the Middle East has also clearly impacted the price of oil and it raises questions once again about our dependence on fossil fuels and how we ought to continue our focus to find more sustainable energies if we don’t want to be held to ransom by a volatile region.

It is fair to say that the ‘megatrends’ of the next 5 to ten years are evidently a reality now and the events in the Middle East are good example of them at play.